Toll rises to six in violence on disputed Assam-Meghalaya boundary

GUWAHATI/SHILLONG, 22 Nov: Six persons, including a forest guard, were killed in violence at the disputed Assam-Meghalaya boundary in the early hours of Tuesday after a truck allegedly laden with illegally felled timber was intercepted by forest guards from Assam.

In a tweet tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam CM Himanta Sarma, Meghalaya’s Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, whose party is an ally of the BJP, complained that the Assam Police and forest guards “entered Meghalaya and resorted to unprovoked firing.”

Assam Police officials, however, said that the truck was intercepted in West Karbi Anglong district of the state by a state forest department team and a mob from the Meghalaya side had later attacked the team of forest guards and policemen from the state, which led firing by the Assamese side to control the situation.

Five of the six killed in Mukroh village in West Jaintia Hills district were Meghalaya residents, and one is

from the Assam forest guard,” Sangma said.

The Assam police, however, placed the figure at four, including a forest guard.

“The Meghalaya government strongly condemns the incident where the Assam Police & Assam forest guards entered Meghalaya & resorted to unprovoked firing. GoM will take all steps to ensure that justice is served & action is taken against those responsible in this inhuman act,” Sangma said on the social media platform.

He also tweeted: “I also appeal to our citizens to maintain peace and harmony in the state. The state government is taking all the necessary steps to ensure that law and order is maintained.”

The two states have a long disputed boundary. While talks have resolved part of the dispute, certain sections still remain properly un-demarcated.

West Karbi Anglong SP Imdad Ali told PTI that the Assam forest department team intercepted and stopped the truck at Mukru area within his district, carrying illegal timber towards West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, at around 3 am.

“As the truck tried to flee, the forest guards fired at it and deflated a tyre. The vehicle’s driver and handyman and another person were then apprehended, though others managed to escape,” he said.

Police reinforcements were rushed to the spot when the forest guards contacted Zirikending police station.

It is not clear whether the casualties, including the forest guard named Bidyasing Lekhte, died of bullet injuries or from injuries inflicted by other weapons.

Sangma also announced ex gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakhs each for the next of kin the deceased individuals. (PTI)